as a family we have always enjoyed travelling by train. at the beginning of the summer holidays we used to take an early morning train from london to paris, then a taxi across paris to leave our luggage at austerlitz station for the day. it was such a fun and relaxing way to travel, we packed board games and craft kits for the journey and felt like we were on holiday from the moment we left our front door. and as an added bonus it gave us a day to spend in paris before taking the night train on to barcelona.
i remember as a child seeing the 1963 film charade, starring audrey hepburn and cary grant. full of romance and suspense, it’s set in paris, and in it there’s a scene when audrey and cary are watching the vrai guignolet theatre. so one year we decided to go on a quest to the champs elysees to find it. we were in luck! we found it, exactly the way it was in the film, with the same faded red curtain and just as much charm.
we also discovered a traditional puppet show, known as a ‘guignol’, in the jardin du luxembourg, one of our favourite spots in paris. it was founded in 1933 and is now housed in a comfortable and modern theatre, with performances all the way through the year. the shows are designed for children aged 2-6 but are a delight for all ages, even adults. there’s also a marvellous old merry-go-round with ride-on wild animals, and an area with vintage toy sailing boats to rent. this is an old tradition which dates back to 1927 when a monsieur and madame paudeau rented handmade wooden boats with hand-stitched fabric sails to visiting children.
another perennial favourite is the natural history museum in paris. it's got an amazing zoological park and a gallery of evolution which is so well done - a state of the art renovated museum packed full of real life-size stuffed animals.
these are our happiest memories of paris. we like to think of it as our secret paris for families.
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